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December 04, 1987 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-12-04
This is a tabloid page

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What, if any, direction will religion take today's students?
Many people perceive contemporary society to be flounder-
ing in an ethical vacuum, where absolute religious values have
died, and nothing has risen to take their place.
While many students have found alternative means of ful-
filling their spiritual needs, other have remained with or re-
turned to more traditional forms of religious practice.
Modern students in our highly individualistic society often
find that ancient biblical religions fail to fail to provide a real-
istic moral code. Yet without ethical guidance, school, and
life, can seem meaningless.
This perceived lack of religious relevance and modernity is
being increasingly addressed by both mainstream Judeo-Chris-
tian religions and non-traditional faiths.
Yet targeting the transient student population presents a
challenge to campus religious leaders above and beyond those
faced by all contemporary clergy.
"At different times in people's lives, the need for roots and
structure come. College years are the years of exploration,"
said Joseph Kohane, assistant director of Hillel, a nation-wide
Jewish student organization.
The Reverend Doctor Virginia Peacock, director of Canter-
bury House, the Episcopalian campus ministry agrees with
"Most students reject religion at this time of their lives and
are looking for means to ground themselves," Peacock said.
Both Kohane and Peacock report that graduate students tend
to think in a more long term fashion, looking to "ground"
themselves as they begin to think seriously about life-long
career and family decisions.
Rev. Bob Hauert, director of the University's Office of
Ethics and Religion, tries to provide an opportunity for both
undergraduate and graduate students to define themselves in
their own way while they are at college. "What you see here is
a developmental phenomena. You come here at 18 tend to do
what the University expects rather than putting together a
value system."
Hauert has been at his office since the late '50s, acting as a
liaison between the University and campus ministries. He has
seen religious expression change with the times.
Students for a Democratic Society had been an option while
I was heading for the seminary, I might of chosen that. I was
looking for a sense of working for justice, and I found it."
M any students feel that today's mainstream religions sim-
ply haven't changed with the times.
However, within each of the traditional faiths, leaders are
struggling between a need to be more in step with modern
standards and a belief that too much reform will sacrifice the
identity and integrity of the faith.
While both the Protestant and Jewish faiths have splintered
into factions with differing theologies, he Catholic church has
remained as one. This has brought about intense inner-faith
Rosemary Radford Ruether is perhaps the most influential
and widely read woman theologian in the country. Her influ-
ence extends well beyond her own Catholic faith. She feels
that the church has not brought itself up to date on many is-
sues, particularly gender and reproductive rights.
"One of the reasons we're not getting adequate sexual ethics
is that one has sexuality being done primarily by celibate
males with a very immature attitude towards sexuality and
women," Ruether said.
But Father William J. Stevenson, of the St. Mary's student
chapel, believes that people's problems with the faith stem
from a lack of education rather than any fault of the traditional
Catholic structure itself.
"There has been a fallout in terms of education. With
parochial education on the wane, the ways that we perceive the
church are changing.
"People don't know the faith. They have never learned what
Catholicism has to offer," said Stevenson.
As a student chapel, St. Mary's is striving to.address this
educational gap. Although the chapel is currently serving
about 4000 University students, faculty, and staff, and pack-
ing its five weekend services, Stevenson is not satisfied.


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By Alan Paul and
Rebecca Blumenstein

Photos by Karen Handelman

"One of our biggest challenges is the
transient nature of the parish," said Stevenson.
By teaching a course at the University next
term on Catholicism and constantly striving to a
reach out to more students in the dormitories and
on campus, Stevenson hopes to educate students
about how Catholicism can be a realistic part of
their lives.
Despite her sharp criticisms of the church,
Ruether agrees that it, and religious institutions
in general, do a relatively good job of addressing
contemporary problems.
"They're not addressing it adequately but
compared to any other major institution, they're
probably doing more. They're addressing it as
much as any other institution around.. .if you
compare what the government is doing, what
universities are doing," Ruether said.
But despite the efforts of religious leaders, r
many students continue to feel that religion does
not have a profound influence on their daily
Although some speculate that students are
following a conservative trend by increasingly
returning to traditional religions, there continues
to be a sense that religion is a separate entity Guild House holds we
called upon only when support is needed.
B ut despite the efforts of religious leaders, many students
continue to feel that religion does not have a profound influ-
ence on their daily lives.
Although some speculate that students are following a con-
servative trend by increasingly returning to traditional reli-
gions, there continues to be a sense that religion is a separate
entity called upon only when support is needed.
"Many people who arrive here are on the brink of disaster
and they haven't come before," Peacock said. "There's a real
need for more outreach but it's difficult because students don't
always feel it's relevant."
According to many sociologists, American culture has
glorified the individual so much that, for many, religion has
become privatized, and removed from the community that was
once so central to the religious tradition. This is a develop-
ment which worries both Peacock and the Colemans.
"A lot of 'religion' has been privatized to become 'my own
spiritual journey' and I'm very concerned about this," Peacock
said. "In our culture, we already glorify the individual so
much. It's very hard for people to come to any sense of be-
longing so there's a sense of 'well at least I can find myself.'
We've lost our universe of moral discourse and our whole
conversation now is a sort of 'my decision.' It's part of the
privatized world which goes with the winning of free will an-
thropology, an understanding of humanness which is very
private, and I'm not sure I know a way out."
Peacock feels it essential for students to have an environ-
ment where they feel supported and comfortable to make moral
and ethical queries.
"Students need to have a community of support where they
feel comfortable to provide support for people to really probe
basic faith questions," Peacock said. "Despite all the, well,
evil, things done over the years, I do think religious traditions
can ground us and provide meaning."
he problems of relevancy and privatization are being ad-
dressed in different ways by various campus religious leaders.
The Guild House, a non-denominational campus ministry,
reaches students by focusing on activist social issues. Hillel
has done so by broadening it's scope and becoming a social,
cultural, and political organization.
Don and Ann Marie Coleman, both ordained United Church
of Christ ministers, have been co-directors of the Guild House
for 12.years. The Guild House's Board of Directors is com-
posed of members of eight Protestant and Jewish faiths, who
share a belief in the importance of social activism.The Guild
House has participated actively or provided space to people
working on issues such as low level nuclear waste, the anti-
Apartheid movement, classified research, and U.S. intervention
in Central America.
"Part of our concerns aligned us with the more activist stu-
dent pbpulation," Ann Marie Coleman said. "Most of them
don't consider themselves religious in a church-related way but

ekly literary readings.

they are spiritual. It is spiritua
tional way."
Coleman said that it is unfair
vidualistic or lacking a communi
share a house of worship.
"To many highly individuali
end within itself. They want to'
the activist, spirituality is more
ity is not an ends within itself, I
Ann Marie Coleman said.
She said that the number of
years as issues such as South Afi
and sexism have "captured people
Coleman stressed that such iss
Guild House's religious mission.
"We're not particularly eccle
make people more religious-
function in believing that one
rounded spiritual life. We're try
ous perspectives. Connections a
to be a human being in our day ar
As the second largest student
Hillel foundation also attempts tc
and realistic extension of oneself.
"Hillel tires to be responsive
Kohane. "We are not here to judg
I n addition to providing re
branches of Judaism, Orthodox
Hillel strives to encourage the o
art, music, politics, literature, or
identify with the faith.
Yet Hillel Director Michael
nothing new, stating that Jewish
years of tradition in literature, art
"We have certain specific ol
munity which we fulfill," Brook
obligation to support and enrich
sity community which we try t(
experience of several thousand
literature, art, politics, and the
either-or situation."
"We do not pull a bait and sw
these other things and then try
gious. That is not the goal of c
gramming in these areas beca
community needs to hear about t
to say," said Brooks.
"People are feeling more free
- how can I be Jewish in a way
hane."The struggle is intense. I i
"This is one of the most e)
Jewish history. The norms no ior

Blumenstein and Paul are the Weekend Magazine
Editors, Handelman a Daily photographer


Worshippers practice meditation at Ann Arbor's Zen Buddist Temple. They feel that the inner peace gained through meditation is necessary before one can relate to others



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